100 Gallon Spill at Lower Monument Dam


100 Gallon Oil Spill at Snake River Dam Latest in Long Line of Uncontrolled Spills from Army Corps Dams

January 9, 2018 (Kahlotus, WA)—
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported a 100 gallon oil spill at the Lower Monumental Dam. According to the Corps, approximately 100 gallons of turbine oil spilled into the Snake River during a three-week period from December 14, 2017, to January 4, 2018. The Army Corps reported the spill to Columbia Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization, pursuant to a 2014 court settlement over uncontrolled oil spills from Columbia and Snake River dams.

“These spills must stop,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “Shockingly, the Army Corps faces no penalties for fouling our rivers with toxic oil pollution. People rely on clean water and healthy salmon runs. It’s past time for EPA and Governors Inslee and Brown to protect the public and Tribal nations’ rights to clean water in the Columbia Basin.”

According to the Army Corps, the federal agency learned of the spill while recording oil levels under its Oil Accountability Program. The Army Corps’ notice to Columbia Riverkeeper states “a drop of 1-inch in the Main Unit 6 oil sump could not be accounted for and is presumed to be lost to the river” and Main Unit 6 has been forced out of service for inspection and repair.”

In 2014, Columbia Riverkeeper settled a lawsuit against the Army Corps to stop oil pollution from eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, including Bonneville, John Day, The Dalles, and McNary, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite. The settlement required the Army Corps to apply for water pollution permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The permits would require the Corps to monitor and reduce oil and other water pollution from the dams. To date, EPA has not taken action to reduce oil pollution and issue permits.

In the settlement, the Army Corps also agreed to study the use of non-toxic oils and implement an Oil Accountability Program to track oil spills. However, the Army Corps has not undertaken a significant shift to non-toxic oils at dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

“It is time for the Corps to switch to  non-toxic oils,” states VandenHeuvel.

Oil spills occur on a routine basis at Columbia and Snake river dams, including a recent 50 to 100 gallon spill reported at Lower Monumental on December 14, 2017, at Main Unit 1. In 2012 the Army Corps reported discharging over 1,500 gallons of PCB-laden transformer oil at the Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. According to the EPA, PCBs cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. The oil from the Ice Harbor spill contained PCBs at levels 14,000,000% greater than state and federal chronic water quality standards.

About Columbia Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 12,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. Columbia Riverkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest-growing environmental movement, uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide. For more information, go to columbiariverkeeper.org.






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